I heard on the news that a 10 year old girl drowned at Coney Island a day after our visit last week, climbing around the rocks after life guard hours. She and her little sister were pulled by people nearby, but she did not survive. I was just staring at those same rocks the evening before.
I think I’ve become more sensitive about death, adolescent pressures and the growing independence of the kids since the summer – not that those 3 things necessarily relate to each other, but they’ve all been on my mind lately. I wrote about independence a few months ago, but I struggled this morning thinking about middle school next Fall and the possible logistics of getting the girls to different schools at different times. I know that it’s still a year away and we haven’t even started the stressful middle school application process coming up in the Fall, but this was the thing I fixated on this morning. Ultimately, the kid will have to get to school by herself, like the majority of middle school kids in our neighborhood, but at this point in time, the concept of her walking around anywhere without me is something I can’t wrap my head around.
Sometimes I just want to hold on to my kids for as long I can, but I know I can’t protect them forever. After what’s happened recently, I have a new fear that didn’t really exist before, but they need to learn how to be independent too – to be able to navigate themselves in this crazy world, to learn how to cope with challenges, stress, peer pressure, and to learn how to survive. You can’t do any of those things for other people no matter how much you want. Isn’t that ultimately our job as parents? Our kids are growing up in a very different world than we did and most certainly will be adults in a world different from ours now too. We’re facing stuff as parents that no other generation has had to deal with before. In a way, we’re adapting and experiencing rapid changes in technology simultaneously so there isn’t as much hindsight knowledge to reflect on that might help inform us. Mostly, I think technology and the internet is positive and good, but we live in some weird times and there’s a lot of ill intent out there; childhood also feels shorter somehow.
P.S. That mural which has been the backdrop to so many photos I’ve taken of the girls over the years is being dismantled because of the structural integrity of the bricks. No one seems to know if it will be repainted again. Of all the things that have been disappearing in NY lately, this one made me really sad.
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These days, I come here and don’t know what to say. Are people blogging anymore? If I’m going by the handful of personal blogs I read, I might be tempted to answer no. I wonder what’s changed, whether we’re sharing in other ways or choosing not to share much at all anymore.
I’ve been distracting myself with work this summer, piling it on and saying yes to a lot of projects (but also no, too). I suppose it’s avoidance, keeping busy. It’s been good and what I’ve needed, but in the last week I feel like I’ve hit a wall and I have lost all energy. Maybe I took on too much too soon. Suddenly, I’m craving the space to do nothing and sit and search through decorative pillows and side tables on the internet if I wanted to. One day after dinner when I headed back to my computer to meet a deadline, Mia asked me, “why don’t you just say no to work if you’re so busy?” I laughed because it seems reasonable and logical enough. The kids are like mirrors, telling it like it is and reflecting back what they see without any judgements. I just think I need to find a better balance, but isn’t that always the question?
Now that we’re looking into August, it’s that time when we feel compelled to cram as much of summer as possible in the next 4 weeks. We’ve been going places, seeing art exhibits (Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum above), swimming whenever we can, and taking advantage of the free events in the city. Despite everything that’s happened, I think it’s been a full summer for the girls and every once in a while, I still catch my breath and think that we’re lucky to be able to raise them in a city where they can be exposed to so much.
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…seems to be ambling by faster than usual. I suppose there was also a lost month in there. As we go about our usual summer activities, I’m struck by how mild the weather has been, save for a few hot muggy days here and there. I’m not a fan of sleeping with AC on, so it’s been a pleasant thing, snuggling under a blanket with the windows open; the evenings have been downright cool.
The girls are in and out of camp these 2 months and when they’ve been home, always ask “what are we going to do today?” I was the same way as a kid–always needing to know what’s next–and it drove my mom crazy. But the days with them at home have fallen into a comfortable, leisurely routine. I watch them and admire how close they are, even for siblings, and sometimes feel pangs of sadness that I don’t have that anymore. Some days are still met with disbelief that he is gone. Other days I feel kind of like a jerk because I’m obviously not the only person who has ever lost someone. In that respect, although I know this thinking is ridiculous, grieving feels a bit self indulgent, particularly when you feel like you need to move on with life. Things are still complex; I think about him everyday.
It’s easier to forget about things when I’m at the office. I forget that I’m angry or sad, but scrambling for childcare when this was unexpected has been a challenge. Maybe we’ve taken for granted this flexibility that we’ve created because we’ve always been around when we’ve needed it. I haven’t given it much thought since the kids started school years ago, but the stress of childcare has bubbled a bit to the surface lately. Working parents – in office, out of office, work from home – it’s all a challenge in its own ways.
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It’s hard to believe how much bigger the kids are since the last time we visited our friend Sara’s lakehouse 2 years ago. They seemed so little the previous years we’ve spent our Fourth of July here. So much has happened to both our families in the past year, but there’s nothing like sitting out on the dock in the first morning light, taking in all the sparks of light that reflect off the water’s surface. This year the girls were able to swim across the lake to the other side of the dock, with flotation devices of course, but still an accomplishment. They marked their names on the inside of the living room closet, adding their names to the list of family and friends who have completed that swim in past years (never mind that they technically cheated). They’re etched now into the history of the house.
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This is my view 2 days a week. You’ve probably seen it on Instagram if you follow me there.
So this office thing…was something that was loosely in the works for a few months now, but still a bit unexpected when it happened. Earlier in the year I’d been contemplating some moves that would potentially be a transition away from what I’ve been doing career-wise for the past 18 years. Nothing that was definitive or that held any answers to what I was going to do with my life, but enough of a shift to feel like I was finally doing something about it after years of feeling stuck.
I’m one of those people who can work perfectly fine at home, so I never thought that I would want to work in an office again. I dislike the commute and I don’t (usually) struggle with some of the issues that some freelancers have expressed can be difficult at times to deal with – namely the isolation and the lack of human interaction. I would have never thought that going to an office a few times a week would have been just the thing that I needed while dealing with my brother’s death, but I showed up 2 days after I got back from California and have been going twice a week since. It provided structure and a routine at a time when I was feeling lost and disconnected from everyone in my life, and it helped with this new anxiety of being around other people. I belonged somewhere, I had somewhere to go, and for the first time in a really long time, made me feel like I was part of a team. Although I’ve been on project teams while freelancing, I’ve been working on my own for such a long time that this was the thing I missed most. All of the newness of working in an office – the indecision of what to wear in the mornings, the commute, the lunches, sitting at a desk again, getting acclimated to excessive office AC – all of it felt fitting. I don’t feel like the same person anymore, and life without my brother is new so maybe this is why this feels right for now.
In a way I’m going back to my tech start up roots, and indeed it does sort of feel like 1999 again as far as the industry is concerned. It’s also nice to be doing something other than design, as well as work in a different industry and this is what I’ve been positioning hard for this year. I still have most of my design clients, however, and this has been the busiest 12 month stretch that I’ve ever had as a freelancer, but I’m letting go of some of the work that I don’t want to do anymore. Also, I’m a workaholic and it’s hard for me to say no, but this also means that certain plans and ideas that I’ve had for the year–personal and for the business–have been pushed aside for now and that is ok. I always seem to carry this weird guilt when I can’t get everything done. Self pressure, unrealistic expectations – whatever it is, it’s nothing new, but I’m also trying to learn from things that have happened this year. I don’t know how long the office thing or this job is going to last – another month, the rest of the year…I don’t know, but I’m just going with it for now. Nothing about this year has been predictable, but sometimes the universe does provide you with what you need. Sometimes.
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An open studio visit on Governors Island’s Artist in Residency program. Gabrielle Duggan’s studio on the top floor of one of the old buildings in Colonel Row. It was very calming to be in that space, all nooks and crannies and peeling paint. I could have sat there and traced each thread as it weaved itself around the stairwell landing for hours.
No one is an island; everyone is connected. Your words and comments are very much appreciated.
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